With its playoff chances dangling in the balance, Desert Vista football fell 14-10 to Corona del Sol on Friday in an ugly, sloppy affair.
Penalties plagued the Thunder all night, stymying offensive drives and allowing Corona to revive its own. The Thunder got the scoring started, however, with a 1-yard run by Tyson Grubbs.
Leading 7-0, it appeared Desert Vista was in full control of the game early on. That changed when Derek Kline was picked off by Corona’s Brandon Gavel, who returned it 55 yards to the Thunder 35. The ensuing drive ended with a 20-yard touchdown catch by Ricky Pearsall in the corner of the end zone.
After a missed extra point, Desert Vista led 7-6 late in the first quarter. A 19-yard field goal by Matt Lewis made it 10-6 Thunder after one.
The game slowed down from there and was filled with myriad penalties and turnovers by both sides, with neither team able to score until the middle of the fourth quarter.
Another Kline interception set up the game-winning drive for Corona. With just under eight minutes to go, the Aztecs marched down the field and took advantage of a visibly tired Desert Vista defense.
Corona took the lead for the first and final time on a 42-yard catch by Gavel. A two-point conversion brought the game to its final score as Desert Vista failed to score in the final moments.
It was an emotional ending for Desert Vista, who fell to 5-5 while Corona finishes 2-8. It’s unlikely that the Thunder will make the postseason after this loss, which allowed Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds to reflect on an up-and-down season.
“There are a lot of things more important than losing a game,” Hinds said. “The message I gave them tonight is to put the relationships they worked so hard to build first.”
It was a tumultuous year for the Thunder, one that saw injuries to key players like James Stagg and Jake White slow any momentum that Desert Vista might have had early on. Hinds said he’s proud of how this group fought through adversity.
“This was a quality group of young men,” Hinds said. “As they move through life, they’ll all face adversity in one way or another. That’s why I love this game — young men get the opportunity to face adversity and work through it.”
6A playoff matchups will be announced on Saturday morning.